Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 22nd 2013 Contents A11
Saturday, June 22, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
J THE TEXTILE KING
Corner Queen & Henry Sts., P.O.S.
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While discussions behind
closed doors usually sug-
gest some kind of clan-
destine activity, it is unfortunate
when much more is made of an
unfortunate choice of location to
hold an otherwise legitimate meet-
There has been such an erosion of
public trust in individuals who hold
public office that there is always a
premature finding of gross miscon-
duct even in the face of full disclo-
To make matters worse, there is
noticeable inconsistency in approach
because many who are calling for
the heads of Dr Rowley and Mr
Gordon have themselves been guilty
of holding meetings and entertain-
ing discussions with persons who
are supposed to be independent
factfinders in matters that have
been placed in the public domain.
By no means am I suggesting that
the meeting between the two gen-
tlemen should not be frowned upon
as a gross error in judgment. In
fact, upon their reflection, I am
confident that both men recognise
the lack of prudence in the circum-
stance of their meeting.
As some have correctly said, they
should have known better in light of
all that is going on.
But despite this act, which might
best be termed "inadvertently fool-
ish," what is of greater deprecation
is the manner in which certain indi-
viduals who ought to know better
are using the incident to deflect and
distract the population from the real
matter at hand---the validity of the
e-mails and their content.
There is nothing wrong with peo-
ple expressing their views, but there
is objection to using this meeting to
promote a political agenda.
Some veteran political distractors
have gone so far as to use the
meeting as evidence of the falsity of
the e-mails and are calling for
charges to be laid against one of the
parties for misbehaviour in public
IN THE OPEN
Note to readers:
Owing to production problems experienced yesterday at the T&T Guardian, Gillian Lucky's regular Friday column and a statement by Reginald Armour, SC, did not appear in our print
edition as planned. We apologise to Ms Lucky, Mr Armour, and disappointed readers.
Their commentaries appear below.
The question as to
whether it was inap-
propriate for the
chairman of the Integrity
Commission to meet privately
with the Honourable Leader
of the Opposition, in circum-
stances in which it would have
been known to the chairman
that a certain matter (the e-
mail complaint) had been
referred to the Integrity Commission by His Excellency
(originating, at that, from the Leader of the Opposition),
admits of one answer only: Yes.
The fact of the meeting having occurred is evidence of
an error of judgment on the part of both the chairman and
the leader. Both the chairman and the leader assert that by
that meeting they have not compromised the e-mail com-
plaint. These statements are reassuring, but they are beside
the point. What actually occurred at that meeting, or remains
in the mind of the chairman, is not the relevant issue.
The law books are replete with occasions on which persons
invested with judicial or quasi-judicial authority (whom I
shall refer to as the decision-maker) commit errors of judg-
ment proximate to or in the process of their consideration
of matters which come before them. These occasions are
most often considered in cases in the area of what is called
"apparent bias," in which it is not necessary (in respect of
the error committed) that actual bias on the part of the
decision-maker should be proved.
What is important and to the point is the need to preserve
confidence in the even-handedness of the decision-making
process, in this case of the Integrity Commission. The
process through and by which the e-mail complaint will
be considered by the commission must remain untainted
by the appearance of the possibility of bias in the decision-
It is also not the case, on occasions in which the disquiet
of apparent bias might be shown to arise, that the deci-
sion-maker is called on or is required to resign from office.
To err is human. Inherent in the hierarchical structure of
our judicial system is the acceptance of our human fallibility.
That is why the Court of Appeal exists, to correct errors
on the part of the High Court judge; equally, it is why the
Caribbean Court of Justice and the Privy Council exist: to
correct errors on the part of the Court of Appeal.
When those errors are identified and corrected, it is not
the case that the judge whose decision is corrected is required
The stampede of public disquiet is thus arrested by an
appropriate and measured response to the disquiet caused
by the error and, the work of the relevant body permitted
There is, therefore, no rational or logical or legal reason
why, in respect of this error of judgment, the chairman of
the Integrity Commission should be required to resign, nor
to have his commission revoked.
The fact of the meeting having occurred and the legitimate
concerns expressed over that fact can be addressed, simply
and without over-reaction, and we can move on.
Without more, the chairman should be able to appreciate
what he must do, in the interest of the Integrity Commission
moving on from this and, indeed, continuing to build on
the good work accomplished under his chairmanship.
He must indicate publicly and otherwise, in precise and
unequivocal terms, that, on the appointment of the other
commissioners and, upon the matter of the e-mail complaint
coming before the commission for its consideration, he will
recuse himself and permit that matter to be dealt with
under the leadership of the deputy chairman.
This emphasises, even more, the need for strength of
character and independence of those other persons who
are, imminently, to be appointed as integrity commissioners
by His Excellency the President.
And while speakers on platforms are
allowed great latitude in their utterances,
especially when in front of crowds of
exuberant supporters who boisterously
cheer at any negative statement made
against the opposing parties, it is expect-
ed that those who are trained in law will
not get carried away with the moment.
A "secret" meeting, which is the term
being used to describe the discussion
held between Dr Rowley and Mr Gordon
at the home of the latter, does not in
itself mean that the conduct of the for-
mer amounts to a crime.
In order to be in breach of the law, Dr
Rowley must be shown to have wilfully
conducted himself to such a degree to
amount to an abuse of public trust.
Based on what has been reported, in
my view, the meeting was improper and
a poor exercise in judgment but there is
nothing placed in the public domain to
suggest that the choice of meeting place
and the content of the discussion are
sufficient to amount to conduct that
violates public trust.
It is, therefore, recommended that
before further comment is made on this
particular issue, Mr Gordon be given the
opportunity to state the manner in
which he intends to move forward on
The President of the Republic has
already, some weeks ago, indicated that
he is well aware of the need to fill the
vacancies on the Integrity Commission
but one acknowledges that this is no
easy task because even when fit and
proper citizens suitable to hold the posts
are identified, they may not be willing to
The matter of the e-mails is the sub-
ject of a police investigation, Dr Rowley
is before the parliamentary Privileges
Committee and the issue of the validity
of the e-mails remains a hot topic in the
court of public opinion.
All attempts to use the back door to
sway the minds of the population as to
where the truth lies ought to be con-
demned because the investigation in the
matter is not yet complete.
Although the matter is not sub judice,
meaning that it is not before a court of
law and, therefore, not forbidden to be
publicly discussed elsewhere, there is a
responsibility to ensure that there is no
risk of compromise, however unreal, in
the findings to be made by any of the
entities who are adjudicating on the sub-
The resort by affected parties to for-
eign and local IT experts is wholly
acceptable but there must be caution in
publishing the findings by experts who
have been hired on their behalf or work
in their departments.
The justification that there is a sepa-
rate legal and political component to the
matter is appreciated but in order to
ensure fairness, the political aspect must
not be allowed to overshadow the justice
of the case.
As an eminent legal counsel opined:
"Somebody has done something wrong
and whoever it is, even if they hold high
office, must face the full brunt of the
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